The increased tensions between Russia and the west, the continuing problems in the global economy and the rising threat from extremism have rightly caused concern in capitals around the world. The crisis of confidence in international relations has further weakened the abilities of all states to deal with modern challenges and threats. Viewed from Kazakhstan and Central Asia, however, these shadows over our collective hopes seem even more menacing.

Ukraine is a country with which we have deep historical and personal ties. The continuing conflict there has had a deep impact on us and the wider region. We have responded by working tirelessly to help settle the Ukrainian crisis. The Minsk agreements have created conditions for a long-term solution. Read more

Saudi Arabia is making all the headlines at the moment. Firstly, it convinced the OPEC oil cartel to maintain production levels at its November 2014 meeting, helping to trigger the oil price crash. It has also overseen the smooth accession of King Salman after King Abdullah’s death in January, and intervened in the conflict in Yemen during the last month.

Last week, Saudi Arabia announced it is pressing ahead with plans to open up the stock market directly to foreigners, giving a precise date of 15 June, ahead of its original deadline of the end of June. The final ‘rules’ will be published on 4 May, giving foreign investors a few weeks to get organised. Read more

As the Chinese economy posts its slowest growth in six years, major reforms to China’s state-owned enterprises are now in the final planning stages. The Xi Jinping administration has pledged to overhaul and consolidate the state-owned economy to tackle widespread inefficiency and corruption.

A wave of mega-mergers among state-owned firms has already been announced in railways, nuclear power and other industries. Consolidation may be easier politically than market reforms, but it’s not the right way forward. China’s crown jewel firms don’t need to be bigger; they need to be better. Read more

One year on since new trade mark laws took effect in China and there is little evidence to show it is becoming any easier for global brands to enforce their rights in the country. The new laws and practices were intended to make it easier to enforce trade mark rights and provide greater levels of transparency and accountability surrounding intellectual property (IP) infringement.

It’s easy to understand why an increasing number of western companies are looking to take advantage of the Chinese market as e-commerce sales have recently rocketed, outpacing the US. However, some companies are still finding it difficult to protect their brands in China. Read more

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The first whispers of worry about a Chinese property bubble surfaced in late 2009. Since then, the local real estate market has quickened and slowed in line with government measures to stoke or cool the market, but has never crashed. Nonetheless, some market watchers insist that the Chinese property bubble will burst one day. Recent sector weakness has given them further ammunition, as has the near collapse of Kaisa, a mid-sized Shenzhen-based developer.

Until December 2014, Kaisa’s finances were perceived to be strong and sales were rising. Now its survival is at the mercy of lenders and rivals. Its woes started when the government halted some of its Shenzhen projects in December without giving a reason. The chairman abruptly resigned, while debts to banks and bondholders have gone unpaid and the firm is in the process of being acquired by its competitor. It has yet to reach a consensual solution with its creditors. Read more

I have just returned from abroad. It felt like déjà vu from a distant past. Explaining Brazil has become complex again. “I read about corruption accusations, popular protests, deficits and crises; what is happening in Brazil?” I was asked by an important investor. The answer inevitably tends to be long and full of Buts and Ifs.

Nevertheless, I will make an effort to summarize it here in a straightforward way. Brazil did not invest enough during the favorable commodity cycle. Policymakers did not recognize the end of the cycle in time. When they did, they tried to go back to a past that no longer existed. Now, Brazil must adjust everything at once to avoid a worse crisis. But markets are dynamic: with the recent depreciation of the real, there are already investors looking for opportunities. That is the reason Brazilian assets rebounded lately. Read more

By 2017,the Asia-Pacific region will have three billion mobile connections. This kind of critical mass is turning digitally native emerging market companies into global powerhouses. China’s Alibaba has one of the biggest valuations in the world, and India’s Reliance Jio Infocomm is launching the largest 4G network in the world.

As online access, digital media consumption and online transactions explode, the opportunities for media and entertainment (M&E) companies seem irresistible. However, the reality is far more complex. Despite the significant potential, M&E companies need to go into emerging markets with their eyes wide open. Read more

Academics and market practitioners often agree that, in the long run, a country’s equity market tends to reflect its broader macroeconomic conditions. When Zimbabwe formally dollarised its economy in 2009, the economy and the stock market soared. Between 2009 and 2012 real GDP growth averaged 10.5 per cent a year; in like fashion, the equity market went up by an annual average of 13 per cent.

The euphoria quickly wore off as Zimbabwe’s poor macroeconomic conditions became apparent. Read more

As finance ministers gather this week in Washington DC they cannot but agree and commit to fighting extreme poverty. All of us must rejoice in the fact that over the past 15 years, the world has reportedly already “halved the number of poor people living on the planet”.

But none of us really knows it for sure. It could be less, it could be more. In fact, for every crucial issue related to human development, whether it is poverty, inequality, employment, environment or urbanization, there is a seminal crisis at the heart of global decision making – the crisis of poor data. Read more

After a lull of several weeks, an upsurge of fighting near Donetsk is once again threatening Ukraine’s fragile ceasefire. A resumption of the Russian-backed offensive had been widely expected to follow last weekend’s Orthodox Easter celebrations, although Vladimir Putin’s precise intentions remain unclear. Is this the next phase of a slow-motion land grab, with Mariupol possibly the next target, or is it just a means of ratcheting up the pressure in an effort to force new concessions? Either way, Ukraine is going to need a lot more international support to weather the crisis. Read more

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, likes to say that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. Such views are reminiscent of the Tsarist Russian Empire and negate Ukraine’s recognition as a separate nation in the Soviet Union, whose collapse he laments as the “major geopolitical disaster” of the past century. Moscow, indeed, views the Ukrainian state as at best a legend or fantasy.

Yet Russians and Ukrainians hold widely divergent attitudes to their Soviet past. Nearly half of Russians believe the “sacrifices” (mass murder) made under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin were justified by rapid economic growth. Nearly 40 per cent of Russians view Stalin positively, according the a poll by the Levada CentreRead more

Geo-economics was defined by its intellectual godfather, Edward Luttwak, as a contest defined by the grammar of commerce but the logic of war. Today, one of the most pernicious tools in this global contest is the evolving role of government in a market economy. It was one thing to fight the battle of communism v. capitalism. It is quite another to fail to recognize today’s competition is increasingly over the rules, norms and tools of state involvement in capitalism itself.

For decades, the US led global economic order largely advocated the position that the economic role of government should be limited. Ideally, governments should set the ground rules for investment and commerce via just laws and regulations and enforce them fairly both domestically and internationally. Beyond that, let the free market rule. Read more

As revelations about cyber-attacks launched against the US last autumn show, Russia is engaged in a relentless intelligence war against the west. Other targets of Russian cyber-warfare have included Germany, Estonia, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia. As James Clapper, the US director of National Intelligence, recently told the US Senate, the Russian threat is “more severe than we have previously assessed”. The ability of Russian hackers to successfully access the State Department and White House computer networks should serve as a wake-up call. The US and its Nato allies must respond by developing a more effective tool kit for dealing with this threat. Read more

Whatever the result of Argentina’s presidential election later this year, the country will be in a different place a year from now with a new and more pragmatic government running the country. All the main contenders for president in the next government have similar ‘four pronged’ approach to address Argentina’s economic problems. Investors should look through this election ‘noise’ and towards the new government’s coming macro-economic reforms which we believe will usher in a new Argentina.

The era of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president, is set to be remembered as a strange epoch that began with default and ended with default. The Kirchners oversaw the restoration of order in Argentina after the chaos that accompanied the 2001 default, but then became bogged down by unnecessary confrontations and economic mismanagement. Read more

The Russian rouble has moved from above 70 to the US dollar in late January to around 50 in mid-April, making it one of the best-performing currencies in the world this year. This is particularly remarkable as the dollar has been quite strong during this period, continuing to appreciate against the euro. So, what is behind this sudden rouble strength?

For most of last year, the rouble traded on the oil price and geopolitics, so it could be assumed that either of those two factors has changed materially. The oil price has moved from $56 to $60 per barrel this year, and the so-called Minsk II agreement was reached on February 12. Is that enough to explain the recovery? Probably not, especially considering that the oil price has been flat over the past two months while the rouble rallied the most. The rouble thus seems to have de-correlated from the oil price, at least partially and temporarily. And there has been fairly broad international scepticism over the Minsk II agreement (which we do not share by the way), making it difficult to believe that that is the reason behind the rouble’s strength. Read more

Argentina recently announced a deal to buy nuclear reactors from China, one of which is expected to be of original design. The anticipated export of the indigenously developed Hualong One is a symbol of how far China has come in a relatively short space of time. It has been able to manipulate its expanding domestic market to make a meteoric rise in terms of technological development.

A relative latecomer to nuclear power, its first reactor was connected to the grid in 1991. Less than 25 years later, China is now aiming to become a major player in the supply of nuclear technology to the world. Read more

Over the weekend of 28-29 March 2015, a Chinese government “special leading group” was set up to oversee progress on the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”, and an action plan was released.

China’s top leadership started talking about a “new silk road” almost as soon as it came into office. President Xi Jinping gave back-to-back speeches on the subject in Kazakhstan and Indonesia in September and October 2013. The Indonesia speech was also the occasion for Xi’s announcement of plans for an Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with a capital of US$100bn to leverage into the scheme. Xi has also announced that China will provide further financial backing through a US$40bn Silk Road Fund.

Grandiose political rhetoric is nothing new. But economic developments are catching up with – or are already ahead of – the financial diplomacy. Read more

On the African continent, peaceful transitions of power through free and fair elections are a true rarity. Despite the odds, General Muhammadu Buhari delivered an impressive victory over incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in last month’s presidential election in Nigeria and is set to take office next month.

While Buhari’s coalition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, last month’s elections are certainly not the final word in Nigeria’s electoral process.

On Saturday, April 11, Nigerians returned to the polls to vote for both State governors and State Houses of Assembly. These were local elections, and the saying that “all politics is local” certainly holds true in Nigeria. During the country’s local elections, the APC once again defied the odds, and gained control of a majority of the country’s governorships. Read more

After China’s notable political success in registering more than 35 applicants for funding membership of the yet to be launched Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), some important issues remain to be addressed that will determine the long term success of the new institution.

Scope of intervention: China-centric or Asia-focused? It is no coincidence that the set-up of the bank comes at the same time Beijing is rolling out its “one road, one belt” action plan. The revival of the Silk Road is part of the charm initiative aiming at winning greater consideration from neighboring countries as much as fostering trade relationships. Read more

The rush by African sovereigns to issue in the Eurobond market is creating problems. When interest rates in the US eventually rise, the burden of servicing new Eurobond interest payments will also rise. Any new issuance will also likely be priced higher. Adding to the burden of higher debt servicing costs, the low oil and commodity price environment is reducing export revenues – the very revenues that sovereigns need to service debt.

Some sovereigns (and possibly some corporates) could struggle to meet private creditor debt service payments, which would increase roll-over risk, ushering in a new era of debt relief. Read more